Lena Waithe hopes to go beyond Chicago's violent headlines with "The Chi"

Last Updated Jan 9, 2018 3:53 PM EST

Lena Waithe is tired of people talking about Chicago who've never lived there. The Emmy-winning writer and actress told "CBS This Morning" she's hoping to show a side of her hometown rarely seen in the headlines with her new series, "The Chi."

"It's not a jungle. It's not a bunch of hooligans with no hearts and no souls and that every black boy isn't born with a gun in his right hand and a pile of drugs in his left. They're born with the same amount of hope and joy as every other little baby in the world," she said.  

Waithe made history in September when she became the first African-American woman to win an Emmy for outstanding writing in a comedy series for her work on "Master of None." Now, she's tackling drama. "The Chi" is a coming-of-age story that follows a group of people who are linked by circumstance in a city that's become synonymous with gun violence and staggering murder rates in recent years.

69th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards - Show
Actor/writers Aziz Ansari (L) and Lena Waithe accept Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series for 'Master of None' (episode 'Thanksgiving') onstage during the 69th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 17, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. Kevin Winter / Getty Images

"For me, I really wanted to show the humanity behind the headlines because the next time you hear a story or a statistic about a young black boy being shot and killed, you know, maybe it won't be background noise," she said.

When Waithe, who is both the creator and an executive producer of the Showtime series, first pitched the idea it didn't immediately go over well.

"There's not this like cliché hook. It's a character study and I think sometimes that's difficult to see – particularly when it's people of color. And I think sometimes they wonder, what's the hook? Are they singing to get out of the hood? Are they drug kingpins?" Waithe said. "Sometimes it's just middle class folks trying to get to work every day, trying to raise their kids, trying to get to church with they can. I wanted to show that sense of normalcy because I feel like you rarely see people of color in a cinéma vérité kind of way."

Waithe earned her history-making Emmy for co-writing an episode of the Netflix comedy series "Master of None" with Aziz Ansari. It was based on her own personal experiences of coming out to her family. She feels that "The Chi" was an opportunity to show her versatility.  

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"I never thought I would write about Chicago and I definitely never thought I would write a drama. Everything before that was comedic," she said. "I think for me, when I was seeing all these news stories about Chicago, I got a little frustrated and I sort of wanted to express myself through art."

Oprah Winfrey's rousing speech at the Golden Globes, which sparked speculation she may run for president, stirred a particularly strong memory for Waithe.

"I know what she spoke about when she was talking about seeing Sidney Poitier. I felt the same thing when I saw Halle Berry. I was in high school and I still remember seeing that speech and I can still quote it," she said.

Poitier was the first black man to win an Academy Award for best actor, and in 2002 Berry became the first black woman to win best actress. She still is.

"Maybe some young girl seeing me on the Emmy stage may have meant something for them. I'm so happy she called that out because it's extremely important for us to be at these award ceremonies," Waithe said. "It means so much to these young kids out watching saying like oh, well, if she did that, then maybe I can do it too."